19 March 2017

Hafiz Adewuyi

My successful US non-immigrant (DS-160) visa interview in Lagos Nigeria

TL;DR

  • I had Eba and Egusi for breakfast
  • The DS-160 interview took place at the US consulate (embassy) at 2, Walter Carrington, Victoria Island, Lagos
  • I forgot my International passport (of all things) at home and had to travel back from Victoria Island to Yaba to get it. Luckily I found out early enough to be able to make that trip in good time. I think I was just too relaxed about the whole thing, and thank goodness it was not a Monday morning #lagosTraffic
  • I was turned back at the US consulate check-in point because I did not have the following documents:
    • GTBank VISA fee payment receipt print-out
    • Visa interview appointment confirmation print-out
  • I was given a one-hour window to go back and get all of my missing documentation
  • Cumulative time spent on check-in and actually getting interviewed was about ten minutes only. No queues at all
  • Actual interview took less than 5 minutes. A few questions which were basically just fact-checking what I had filled in the application
  • The only required documents are as follows. Don't let any tout on the way to the consulate tell you otherwise (and they will try really hard):
    • Your International Passport (no need for photocopies, even though you can make a couple to boost your confidence)
    • Your visa fee payment receipt print-out from GTB
    • Your DS-160 visa application confirmation print-out
    • A print-out of your visa interview appointment confirmation
    • One copy of standard passport photograph (click to see US visa passport photo specifications). I paid 1500 for only 4 copies of this somewhere in V.I. because I did not want any stories and someone had referred them. In the end, none of the passport photographs was withheld after the interview. I went home with all of them. It's just for sighting. But hey, make sure you have a few copies.
  • In the end, you go back home with all of the documents, except your International passport, which will (hopefully) be withheld for the affixment of the visa
  • Drop all electronic devices at home/office. Go with your clothing and the required documents ONLY. If you can't avoid having electronics e.g. your phone, the security people outside the consulate can 'help' you hold it for the duration of your interview
  • I produced one litre of sweat to drench my TM shirt walking back and forth Kofo Abayomi and Walter Carrington under the hot Wednesday morning Lagos sun. When I finally returned to my office, my soul thanked the inventor of air-conditioning as usual
At this point, you're free to confidently walk away because the rest of the article is more or less a rant. Don't say I didn't warn you.

LONG STORY

Scheduling my interview

Last Monday, I finally got information that the long-anticipated US trip would come up in April 2017 and that I should go ahead to schedule my visa interview. I had concluded my DS-160 B1 non-immigrant visa application since September 2016 because the trip was meant to be in October 2016. However, the trip was postponed till 2017 due to logistics reasons. 

I quickly rallied around and got all the information I needed to schedule an interview. The simple procedure is as follows:
  • Pay your visa fee at any GTBank branch. This took me less than ten minutes. Very quick service at the Adeola Odeku branch of GTBank
  • Next day or four hours after paying (depending on how early you paid), proceed to the US visa interview portal to schedule your interview. Very seamless process.  Towards the end of the process, you will have to enter the receipt number on the GTBank fee payment printout
The earliest date available for interviewing was on Wednesday of the next week. I picked 10 a.m. for my appointment. Thank goodness I picked 10 a.m. God surely had my back here. At the end of the process, a copy of the appointment confirmation was sent to my email. I noticed a number (138) was in bracket beside my time slot and I was wondering if that number indicated the order in which I would be attended to. It turns out the number was not referenced at all on the interview date. But I think that might be because we interviewees were very few at the consulate that day.


US Visa Lagos embassy interview appointment details
US Visa Lagos consulate (embassy) interview appointment details

Forgetting my international passport at home

When I realised this about three hours to the interview on my office seat, even I asked myself: "Of all things"? Fortunately, I realised early enough to make a return trip between work and home and still have some time left.

It took me less than a thirty-minute drive to get back home. The first thing I did was to bring out the passport from my file and put it in my bag. No devil would make me forget this thing again. Then I took off my office clothes and settled to a morsel of Eba and Egusi with goat meat since I apparently still had enough time on my hands. Life is good and ain't no US visa interview gonna ruin it. To be honest, I was actually waiting for the morning rush-hour traffic to subside. So what better thing to do than to kick back and relax with a plate of Eba and goat meat Egusi soup.

By the time I was ready to leave again, it was almost 9 a.m. From my Google maps, I could still see a few patches of dense traffic here and there. And I didn't want to risk being stuck in traffic when all I had was an hour to get from Yaba to V.I. So, I ordered an Uber which arrived a few minutes after 9.

By 9:30, I was back at the office. I rushed in, picked out the documents I needed from my bag and headed out for the consulate which is a ten-minute trek away from my office. Yes, I trekked.


I did not bring my GTBank visa fee payment receipt and appointment confirmation print-out

On my way to the visa interview, one of the 'business men' on the road mentioned the need for these documents it but I ignored. I had followed the instruction on my DS-160 application to the letter. The instruction said to come along with the following documents:
  • DS-160 application confirmation
  • International passport
Well, I also took my passport photographs, because of course, I didn't pay 1500 naira to get 4 passport photos for nothing.

I finally realised I was in trouble when the consulate attendant came out (just before ushering us in), to announce that we should put the following documents inside our passports:
  • GTB visa fee payment receipt
  • DS-160 application confirmation
  • Visa interview appointment confirmation
  • One passport photograph
I had only two of four documents and I knew I was done for. But I kept my cool and did not say anything. I walked in through the gates and security check with the rest of the people who seemed to have all the requirements. 

When I got to the table with the check-in attendants (whom at first glance, I thought were actually the interviewers), I presented my documents to one of them. He soon found out the deficiency in my papers and when he asked, I explained that I didn't come with them because I followed the DS-160 instructions. 

US visa DS-160 Lagos interview; documents to bring
US visa DS-160 Lagos interview; documents to bring

I had hoped I would be able to get away with not having those documents since:
  • I would not have been able to schedule an appointment in the first place if I had not paid my visa fee, or don't they trust their systems?
  • My name would not be on the appointments list if I had not booked an appointment in the first place. Like duh! You just want to 'konk' the person who invented some protocols, because I can understand these ones were just doing their job. 
Another reason I can think of for these apparently unnecessary document checks is the bad reputation that Nigerians have for being fraudulent.

Anyway, the attendant and US Lagos visa consulate authorities were graceful enough to grant me one hour to sort myself out. My appointment was at 10 a.m., so I got a slip which advised me to be back by 11 a.m. with all the missing documents. 

Fortunately, the documents were all in my bag at my office at Kofo Abayomi. The journey back was not easy, though. I had to trek the 10-minute distance between the US consulate and my office once again. Of course, there were cabs all around, with the drivers inviting me in. But come on, I had already spent 2000 Naira on an Uber to work that day. That alone is more than my daily allowance. 

Avoid falling victim to the touts on the way to the Lagos US consulate

On my first trip to the US consulate, I saw my colleague returning from his own interview which was two hours earlier. The only thing he told me was this: "Please, ignore all those boys on the road o"! As a result, I made sure to pay deaf ears to their warnings on my first trip to the US consulate general.

However, on my second trip (after I went back to the office to get the missing documents), my immunity to their prodding was understandably lower. Also, there was this guy who was really persistent and kept on warning me about all the things I was missing for over thirty seconds. Of course, since I'd already been to the consulate once, I knew it was unlikely that I was still missing anything which the check-in attendant did not already tell me about. Nevertheless, I decided to grant the guy audience for all his trouble under the hot sun.

I handed him my documents. He looked through them and the first thing he said was I needed to staple them together, then staple two passport photographs to the documents. He went ahead to staple the documents and I handed him a 100 Naira note in exchange for my neatly stapled documents. Alas, that would not be enough as this crafty guy was bent on milking me further.

Next thing was that I was missing a photocopy of the data page of my international passport. Can you imagine? At this point, my immunity to bullshit kicked back into full gear and I just told him, "I'm already late". To try to persuade me, he said it would take only two minutes but I wasn't having it. He dropped off my back after another ten seconds of following me, trying to convince me that I needed to make that photocopy.

You won't guess the first thing the check-in attendant at the consulate did when I handed him my stapled documents. He ripped them apart, while I stood there, just smiling to myself. Anyway, when I was giving the 100 Naira to the tout, I already told myself it was charity. Needless to say, no one at the consulate asked for the data page of my international passport.

Back at the office after my interview,  one colleague told me that photocopies cost 1000 Naira per copy around the consulate. He also told me that the first time he ever went for a US visa interview at the Walter Carrington consulate, the touts had made him spend almost 20,000 Naira on unnecessary photocopies (and services) for him and his family.

The takeaway? These touts are there to make a livelihood out of the scarcity of complete information on visa interview requirements. I don't want others to suffer the same fate as my colleague did in their hands and that's the major reason I'm writing this article.

I've mentioned it earlier but to reiterate, all the documents which I needed for the DS-160 interview are as follows:
  • My International Passport (no need for photocopies, even though you can make a couple to boost your confidence)
  • My visa fee payment receipt print-out from GTB
  • My DS-160 visa application confirmation print-out
  • A print-out of my visa interview appointment confirmation

Required documentation for US visa interview Lagos consulate
Required documentation for US visa interview Lagos consulate

It is more or less all the documents that have to do with your entire application process (pretty logical, innit). I would say it doesn't hurt though to have a few photocopies of your international passport data page at hand. Who knows if there's a scenario where they might ask for that or if they might start asking for it in the future.

DISCLAIMER: Note that my US travel is for business purposes only. I understand that some additional supporting documents might be required in other scenarios.

The US visa interview proper

There was hardly anyone waiting at the check-in point when I got back to the US consulate the second time. After being scanned thoroughly by the security to be devoid of any electronics, I approached an attendant and handed him all of my documents. Once he confirmed all ok, he directed me to another set of security men who then led me out and into the building on the other side of the road as the check-in centre.

In this building, I underwent another couple of security checks, even to the point of having to remove my belt, before I finally reached the interview room. The interview room is a square hall with the interviewers behind glassed-off stalls which surround the large open space in the centre. The open space in the centre is organised using an array of queue stands.

As I made my way through the queue stands, one interviewee caught my attention. He was an old man who was apparently seeking a visa to visit his family member abroad. It appeared as though, the interviewer was grilling him on questions to determine how truly cordial the relationship between him and his prospective host in the US is.

Before getting to the senior white lady who actually interviewed me, I went through two other consulate staff. The first one (a black lady) took my passport and posted something behind it. The next person (a black man) scanned the sticker behind my passport and recorded my fingerprints using an electronic scanner.

The interview proper which came next was pretty short and went very well. I answered most of the questions without any difficulty and without mincing words. The reason for my travel is simple enough anyway. There was almost a glitch, though, but thank God things did not escalate and I was able to explain myself.

When the interviewer asked me how long my stay in the US was going to be, I said 1 to 2 weeks. Her brows quickly furrowed as she looked intently at me from behind the glass separating us. She told me I had to be specific; it's either one week or two weeks. I really can't remember what I said in response, but after I answered, she asked why I had said "one to two weeks" earlier. I just told her it was a mistake and that the stay duration was not at the top of my mind when she first asked me.

After the interview, I thought a better explanation (which is actually the truth) would have been as follows. "The actual reason I'm travelling to the US would engage me for a full week. But then, one would need to have settled in for one or two days before going about the actual business which brought one to the US. Hence, my mentioning two weeks to cater for the arrival and departure schedules".

Honestly, I was scared that things were going to go south from the point of this mistake because the woman appeared to be upset. Thankfully, I scaled through. The last words which she spoke to me were, "I have issued your visa. You can pick it up from your elected delivery centre in another four days".

Happy frogs from MemeSuper

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7 comments

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19 March 2017 at 22:21 delete

Yay! I have had some interesting experiences at the visa interviews. I find that the interview in itself is pretty straight forward and if you do not overthink it and just tell the truth you are fine. The most interesting thing that happened was one guy who denied going to a country that the stamp was in his passport. It was ridiculous. Anyway congrats on your visa. If you are coming to New York, I live close enough that we can do lunch :)

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vicky U
AUTHOR
19 March 2017 at 23:05 delete

Enjoy your trip.
Hope you get to write about your experience at the airport while travelling

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20 March 2017 at 07:04 delete

Thanks Vicky.

Since you've asked, I'll try my best to write as much as I can about my entire travel experience.

Thanks for reading.

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11 April 2017 at 18:35 delete

Hi Bimmy. This is music to my ears.

Thanks for reading and commenting :)

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13 April 2017 at 06:08 delete

Migrating to a country is a big decision, and a thing not to be taken lightly. Especially a country where there are numerous opportunities in almost all of its states

Australia Skilled Immigration

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